Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Quest For Fire, Bye Bye Brazil

Day two of the weekend movie marathon included another horror movie, a movie I couldn't stand, and a movie that was probably picked by my mother.

I think this was a first-time viewing of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but am not quite sure...I can say that the movie didn't give me nightmares, or freak the shit out of me, but I was impressed by it. Its low-budget gives it an all-around creepy feeling, and that house really looks like a crazy-ass place you might actually stumble upon after taking a wrong-turn in Texas.

It didn't leave quite the impression on me that Halloween did, but that's probably because there aren't any really developed characters in it. There's no Laurie Strode to root for. But it still remains one of the best horror movies ever.

Quest for Fire was a big snore as far as I was concerned; I just thought a whole movie in which people grunted was a waste of time. As it is, I think the only thing I remember about it is the cave-people-getting-it-on moments. Of course.

Which brings us to Bye Bye Brazil, which I'm pretty sure I slept through most of. My loss?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Targets, The Night Andy Came Home, Swamp Thing (2)

In what what must have been a weekend of non-stop movie watching, horror movies were the choice for Saturday, November 20th.

I've written about Swamp Thing already, and once again, the fact that this was on VHS for rental within the same year it was released in theaters debunks my theory that movies took a lot longer to reach the rental market back in the day. What is NOT debunked, however, is how insanely expensive it was to actually BUY movies back then, with tapes going for something like 80 bucks on average. Nuts!

The night's other two films, Targets and The Night Andy Came Home are two low budget horror movies, although one is probably better known than the other.

That one is Targets, which was Peter Bogdanovich's first movie, and an effective little thriller loosely based on the Charles Whitman shootings at the University of Texas.

The scariest thing about the movie? It is still totally relevant today...

The other movie, The Night Andy Came Home, AKA Deathdream, AKA Dead of Night, was written by Alan Ormsby, who also wrote Cat People, which is probably why I chose to watch it. It was directed by Bob Clark, the man behind A Christmas Story--and another classic Christmas movie, Black Christmas--and is based on the old story "The Monkey's Paw." In this one, parents of a son killed in Vietnam wish him back to life, but of course, that kind of thing comes with its drawbacks...

I actually don't really remember much about the movie, aside from it having a kind of spooky soundtrack, but I think it was my first introduction to the "Monkey's Paw" story, and I certainly noticed the parallels about a year later, when reading Stephen King's Pet Semetary....

Saturday, November 10, 2012


While it has absolutely nothing to do with the holidays, for years, and even to this day, I think of Creepshow as a holiday movie, simply because it came out at the end of 1982, and I would end up watching it during Christmas breaks for several years after.

Creepshow is also one of those movies I have a distinct memory of seeing, and yet, the date seems weird.  If we did see it on November 10th, that was a Wednesday, which means we went on a school night. Which wasn't unheard of, but still seems odd.

But I definitely remember what theater it was at: the Serra, which was just off 280, before Serramonte. It was a great single-screen theater, but had a notoriously dim projector bulb, which was a bit of a problem when it came to horror movies.

Since the movie is five stories in one, (six, if you count the surrounding story of the kid and the comic book), of course some segments are going to better than others. I think my favorite is probably "The Crate," owing a lot to Adrienne Barbeau's brilliantly obnoxious Wilma--sorry, "Billie"--a woman just screaming to be eaten by a crate monster.

I also really like "Something to Tide You Over," which features Leslie Nielsen as a very affective bad guy. If you haven't seen the movie, maybe don't watch this clip, as it's the end of the segment. But I think it really illustrates what a beautiful horror movie Creepshow is, with its use of bright colors, emulating comic book panels and comic coloring.

Even the weaker stories, like "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill," have their moments, even if Stephen King's bad acting almost ruins it.

Yep, Creepshow is a movie I grew to love even more as an adult, and one I could watch over and over again, and never grow tired of.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Huge Downer: Skyfall

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

I have a complicated relationship with the James Bond movies. For me, no Bond will ever top Sean Connery, as I prefer a suave Bond over a Bourne Bond, and there's no one suaver than Sean. I also have an intense love of the era those first Bonds were set in. But I've realized those two things are, really, the only things I really like about the James Bond franchise, and even taking that into account, I've never wanted to watch a James Bond movie more than once.

When you get down to it, they're always very long, and...kinda boring. There are no real surprises. He's never going to die, not really. So right there, the stakes are pretty low. And all the films tend to follow the same plot outlines: Opening sequence; introduction of Villain; introduction of Bond Girl; sex; fighting; defeat of bad guy; ironic ending.

Skyfall is an attempt to raise those low stakes, by bringing "depth" to Bond, and putting a much-loved character at the center of danger.

It begins with the requisite action sequence. Bond is chasing a bad guy who has stolen a top secret list of the identities of hundreds of undercover agents. The chase eventually finds them on the top of train, with Bond manning a bulldozer as a weapon. (Yes, ON the train.) The scene ends, with Bond OMG MAYBE DEAD (he's not dead), and gives way to one of the better post-Connery credit sequences. (And I'd put Adele's theme song up there in the top five of Bond songs. For those who say it sounds too much like other Bond songs, all I can say is: Exactly.)

The crucial list is lost, and eventually the owner threatens to expose the identifies of undercover operatives around the world. He also seems to have a personal vendetta against the head of M16, M herself, (Judi Dench, back for more), and after an explosion rocks M16 headquarters, M's future in the agency, and the very existence of the agency itself, comes into question.

Bond, having come back from the dead, (this isn't a spoiler; it's a JAMES BOND movie), is assigned to the case, even though his abilities aren't exactly up to par after months on a bender consisting of women, scorpions, and Heineken. He's tired, physically and mentally, and this close to muttering "I'm too old for this shit."

Javier Bardem is the villain, Silva, a bleached blond computer wiz, who is also an ex-spy who used to work under M, and he's pretty sure she betrayed him. (It's very telling how everyone refers to her as "M'am," but it comes out sounding like "Mum.")

The best Bond villains are the most ridiculous ones, and Javier Bardem knows this. His Silva is so over-the-top, the only thing missing is a white cat and a moat filled with sharks.

There's no doubt the Daniel Craig Bond movies have been a shot in the arm for the franchise. And I understand this was a necessity to bring the series to the 21st century; Craig's Bond is the toughest, most badass of the Bonds.

But I still miss the Bond of yore. For Connery's Bond, charisma was his weapon of choice, and when he was able to shoot the bad guy, or get out of a jam, it was almost an afterthought. Craig's Bond is pure wiry, sweaty, vein-popping, fighting machine; when he's trying to lay on the charm, that feels like an afterthought.

So, I suppose one's Bond preference boils down to one's preference for watching ass-kicking, or martini-swilling. But even with all that aside, even if Sean Connery was magically transformed into his 1960s self again, and back to play this Bond, I would still have some major issues with Skyfall's plot, and the treatment of some of its characters. To discuss would be a major spoiler, so I'll just say, something happens in it that makes everything that happens before that event, completely pointless.

Also, the movie is 143 minutes long. That's too many minutes! For every stunningly-shot fight sequence, (and director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins provide some beauts, including a breathtaking scene in a Shanghai skyscraper lit by neon signs), there's an equally dull scene of Bond sadly walking down a beach, or struggling to catch his breath. Plus, there's only one real Bond girl--Severine, beautifully played by Bérénice Marlohe--and she disappears much too soon.

Even with the appearance of a beloved icon from the original films, the addition of some witticisms from Bond, and a fight that happens in a Komodo dragon pit, this Bond is a huge downer. Some may prefer the realism of this incarnation. But I'll take gun fights in tuxedos, women with ridiculous names, and Sean Connery's Scottish lisp over it any day.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Eating Raoul

I think I had a pretty sophisticated sense of humor for a twelve-year-old, but I think even the most worldly of pre-teens would have a problem with the movie Eating Raoul.

So why would I (or my parents, more specifically) decide to go see it? The fact that Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov were its stars and creators, and were both in Rock n Roll High School, which I loved, was probably the biggest contributing factor. So, we went to go see it at the Bridge theater at the beginning of November.

Alas, their presence didn't help me like the movie, which is kind of a like an even weirder version of Sweeney Todd: Woronov and Bartel play a prudish couple who wants to open a restaurant but can't raise the money. They start to lure "swingers," (the sex variety, not the 1990's Vince Vaughn variety) to their apartment to kill them and steal their money. It gets considerably more ridiculous than that, and is filled with a lot of black humor, and low budget filmmaking.

Because it left such a bad impression on me back then, I never really bothered to watch it again as an adult. I wouldn't waste a rental on it now, but if it ever pops up on cable, I might give it one last try...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dull Sameness: Cloud Atlas

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

On Monday the 22nd of October, 2012, I had to attend a screening of Cloud Atlas. This meant missing the majority of the game in which the Giants clinched the National League title; missing the subsequent city-wide celebration; and missing roughly three hours of my life.

But I promise that's not why I didn't like Cloud Atlas.

I didn't read the book it was based on, but now I think I might, mainly because I want to know what all the fuss was about, and also because there's no way it can be any worse than the movie.

Now, the movie isn't an unmitigated disaster. But it's filled with missteps, is way more ambitious than the skills of its (three) directors, and is, as a whole, a bit of a mess.

Essentially, it's six movies in one, set in six different time periods, featuring the same actors in all.

The earliest story, set in the mid 1800's, centers on a young man, (Jim Sturgess), making a journey across the Pacific Ocean on a slave ship, while being treated by a shady doctor, (Tom Hanks), for a mysterious malady

Robert Frobisher, (Ben Whishaw), and Rufus Sixsmith, (James D'Arcy), are lovers in early 1930's England who, after a brief affair, maintain contact through letters after Frobisher leaves for a job as musical assistant to an aging composer, played by Jim Broadbent.

Halle Berry is the center of the next story, set in 1973 San Francisco. (And by San Francisco, I mean Majorca. If you're going to try and convince me that's San Francisco, at least get the color of our street signs right!) She's an investigative reporter named Luisa Rey, working on a story about a nuclear power plant.

Present day England follows, with Jim Broadbent now a literary agent with a dangerous client, (Hanks again, doing the worst cockney accent, EVER), who is tricked by his brother, (Hugh Grant), into going into hiding at an old age home.

A futuristic Korea is the setting of the dystopian chapter, featuring Doona Bae as a clone amongst thousands, all designed to work in the service industry. She is freed by a young man, (Sturgess again, this time with creepy, fake Asian eyes), educated, and eventually leads a rebellion.

Jump ahead many years, (or "106 After the Fall"), and Tom Hanks is now a fur clad caveman living in fear of cannibals that look like Day of the Dead revelers mated with 1960's Hollywood's version of Native Americans. Halle Berry is a visitor from a more civilized area of Earth, hoping to find someone to guide her to a mountaintop so she can summon a deus ex machina to save humanity. More or less. I'm not entirely sure, because this part of the movie has the characters speaking in some futuristic patois that is so hard to understand, it had me wishing for a closed captioning option within the theater.

These stories aren't told chronologically, but instead, the film jumps from era to era. Along with the main actors, there are some supporting actors who also appear in each story, like Keith David, and Hugo Weaving. And the lead actor in one story will often appear as a supporting actor in another.

Sometimes it's fun spotting these actors as they bounce from era to era. But at other times it's just plain laughable, because the directors didn't trust that the audience would understand the actors were actually playing different characters, and instead pile on the most distracting fake noses, prosthetics, and spooky contact lenses to ever grace a movie that wasn't about werewolves, in an attempt to alter the appearance of the actors from story to story.

Most of the stories have to do with freedom and enslavement, power and weakness. Most of them. And therein lies another big problem with the movie. Once I saw the connections between some of the stories, I was looking for how all the stories and characters are supposed to be connected, when in fact, sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren't.

Sometimes it's painfully obvious we're dealing with the same "soul" as it travels from story to story, (there's a totally corny birthmark many of them share). And sometimes there's a male actor in drag just...because. And that's nothing but distracting.

Perhaps it would be less of a distraction if the stories were told chronologically. But the movie jumps from story to story, and sometimes those jumps are really jarring. The tone of the modern day story about the old age home is very light and funny, (and therefore the film's most enjoyable as well), but when they jump from a bunch of old people "fighting the power," to say, ANY of the other stories, it's just a huge downer.

I would have loved it if each of the stories was treated like a different genre of film. And with two Wachowskis and one Tom Twyker directing, it seems like that could have been a relatively easy thing to do. Instead, all of the stories have a dull sameness that drains the film of any real surprise. They went for inspiring, but let me tell you this: I'm sure that Giants game lifted more souls than this movie ever will.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Cat People was my introduction to Nastassja Kinski, so I had not yet seen 1979's Tess at this point in 1982. So when it came to the York Theater, I was all over it.

Now, there's no doubt she fits the role as far as looks is concerned; she's just stunningly beautiful in it. But I think she got some criticism for her performance. Personally, I think she's fine, and I find her attempts at a Wessex accent kind of charming. But I can totally seeing sticklers taking issue with it...

After seeing the movie, I read the book, and quite liked it. I think it benefited me to have seen the movie first, as it made the book easier to follow, and the language a little less impenetrable. About a year later in school, we started reading books by Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, and others, mainly Victorian novels, or a little earlier. But I stuck with Thomas Hardy, and to this day, prefer Tess to anything by Jane Austen.

I also had this Tess poster on my wall for years, never really considering a poster with the word "rape" on it might not have been the best thing to really draw the boys to me....

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

If it seems like a long time between posts, it has been. I will admit I skipped one day (October 3rd, and a third viewing of E.T., mainly because I just couldn't remember where I saw it), but really it's because, apparently, I didn't see anything between October 3rd and October 23rd in 1982. Which seems weird! I don't know what was going on in my life back then that I wasn't finding any time for movies, but apparently, there was a lot.

But the release of a new Halloween movie was what got me to the movies once again, on the opening night of Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

Whiiiiiiich, was a huge flop. The concept: to bank on the Halloween movie brand name, and release a new Halloween-themed movie every year that had nothing to do with the previous Halloween movies was, in hindsight, pretty dumb. All they managed to do was piss off people who were thinking they were going to see Michael Myers's return, and didn't, and also piss off people who knew it wasn't a "real" sequel by releasing a movie that was...kinda dumb.

Looking back on it now, I can kind of appreciate it because it's so preposterous. It's basically the story of mad scientist who hates kids and wants to melt their heads. And somehow, Stonehenge is involved. What's not to like?

If it were just that, with no ties to the Halloween franchise it...well, it probably would have still been a flop. But it was just plain doomed with that marketing behind it.

I saw it at the Alhambra, and I am not sure if both of my parents came with or not. I remember the theater was pretty packed--a sold-out crowd of disappointment!

And despite thinking it was kind of dumb, I still bought one of the tie-in masks featured in the movie. It was insanely cheap for something that was actually pretty high quality, glowed in the dark, and I wore it on more than one Halloween. To wit:

In fact, I still have it, and every Halloween, I put it on and watch this:

Still have my head, too. SO FAR.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Absolutely Terrific: Argo

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

I'm not sure why I continued to have doubts about Ben Affleck: Director. His previous efforts, Gone Baby Gone, and The Town are both very good movies. And that might have been the issue: those movies were good, but they weren't great. But with his third movie, Ben Affleck: Director has solidly moved into the "great" column. Argo is absolutely terrific.

I know I tend to talk about how preferable it is to go into some movies knowing very little about them, but this isn't just because of possible spoilers, or learning about plot twists. Sometimes not knowing what kind of movie you're getting into can make it a much more enjoyable experience.

In the case of Argo, not knowing the history it was based on makes the movie surprising, and one of the most edge-of-your-seat thrillers you'll ever see. I just can't fathom enjoying the film as much if you know the outcome.

And that is actually kind of a sad thing to admit, since I am essentially saying I am a complete ignoramus who didn't even know about the events depicted in the movie, (aside from the hostages part), despite them happening within my lifetime, AND I am hoping the majority of the audience is just as ignorant.

Sure, some of it was kept secret until 1997, (specifically, America's involvement), but the shell story was public knowledge, and in fact was even made into a film before, (a TV movie called Escape From Iran: The Canadian Caper).

The basic plot is this: In 1979, the U.S. Embassy in Iran was overtaken by a mob of Iranians angry about America's support of the Shah, and his political asylum within the U.S. They, and much of Iran, wanted the Shah returned to the country so they could try him, and execute him.

Sixty-nine employees of the embassy were taken hostage, but six were able to slip out unnoticed, and make their way to the home of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor, (played by Victor Garber) and his wife, where they were forced to remain hidden.

CIA Agent Tony Mendez, (Affleck), is given the task of figuring out how to get the Americans out. While the CIA is focused on giving them flimsy covers as teachers on a biking trip to the border, Mendez hatches one of those "if this were in a movie, no one would believe it" plans. And in fact, it is a movie. A fake movie. Mendez plans to give them covers as a Canadian film crew in Iran scouting locations for an Arabian-influenced space movie titled...Argo.

In order to make the fake movie look as real as possible, Mendez employs special effects make-up man John Chambers, best known for his work on the Planet of the Apes movies, (John Goodman), and a cynical veteran movie producer, (hilariously played by Alan Arkin), to create a credible cover, including the optioning of the script, the creation of trade paper ads and storyboards, and a table read/press event.

This part of the story is pure fun, and takes the movie into the realm of insider comedy, especially when the wisecracking movie vets utter such lines as, "If I'm gonna make a fake movie, it's gonna be a fake hit," and "Can you teach someone to be a director in a day?," "You could teach a rhesus monkey to be a director in a day."

Once Mendez gets to Iran, the film turns into an intense bit of suspense, and that's where I'll stop with the plot details, and hope for your shared ignorance in how everything ultimately turned out.

Now, I'm not so naive as to believe that every aspect of the movie is factual. Much of the second half of the film is played up--way up--for the sake of suspense. But it's a pleasing bit of irony that Affleck has made a movie about planning a fake movie, and it's filled with falsities that actually help to make it an almost perfect Hollywood production. The irony gets even bigger when you realize that the story that was sold to world for years as fact was, largely, a lie.

So, yeah, it will have detractors who will condemn its selling of yet another legend over fact. But to them I can only quote directly from the movie itself and say, "Argo fuck yourself."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Not What You Expected: Looper

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

Writer and director Rian Johnson, (someone I think I should marry just because, seriously, Rian and Rain?), came out of the gate strong with the movie Brick, a flick I appreciated more than I liked, finding its placement of noir style and dialogue into the mouths of babes a little grating after a while. He stumbled with his second feature, The Brothers Bloom, an uneven period comedy, but has come back strong with Looper, his third film, a violent sci-fi story about time travel. And really, that only touches the surface of its subject matter.

I went into the movie a little annoyed with it. I found the stills and trailer featuring star Joseph Gordon-Levitt made up to look like a young Bruce Willis kind of laughable, and feared it would be nothing but a distraction.

And honestly, it is...for about 15 minutes, until the real Bruce Willis appears, and you start to appreciate the impersonation Levitt is actually doing. (Which, for the record, would have been good enough without the CG and make-up.)

Here's the thing: Looper isn't the movie I thought it would be. I'd avoided reviews, and only watched one trailer, so as far as I could tell going into it, it was going to be a twisty time travel movie about young Bruce Willis hunting old Bruce Willis, who had been sent back from the future to be killed by young Bruce Willis. Shootings, chases; chases, shootings; maybe some half-naked women.

And, indeed, the movie is that. Partially. But about halfway through, it starts to go in a different and unexpected direction, and I was genuinely surprised by it. It's not a "twist," per se, but in the interest of possibly retaining that element of surprise for someone else out there, I'm going to avoid talking about the movie's second half.

As for that first half: It's good, if somewhat grim. Set in a future where time-travel hasn't yet been invented, but will be invented in that future's future, life is pretty bleak. The homeless populate the streets, (and, somewhat amusingly, are often referred to as "hobos"). No one really seems to be living the high life, but "loopers" come close.

While time travel will be invented in the future, it will also be outlawed, and you know what that means: Only the outlaws will use time travel. In that future, the criminal syndicate will use time travel as a form of assassination. Apparently, killing someone in the future is hard because of...body tracking? Or something? (It's best not to think too hard about it.) So, instead, they send their victims back through time, where they are then killed by assassins known as "loopers," who kill and dispose of the bodies, in exchange for nice bars of silver.

Joseph Gordon Levitt is Joe, a looper who's also got a bit of a drug problem, and big dreams of visiting France.

Of course, time travel murder does have its potential problems, one of them being that eventually, the loopers of the present will be the loopers of the future, and they need to be gotten rid of, too, "closing the loop." And sometimes, a looper ends up having to assassinate himself.

Which is what happens to Joe...or at least what's supposed to happen, until old Joe knocks out young Joe, and goes on the run. Old Joe wants to change his future, so that he can avoid some of the tragedies he goes, went, I mean, is going to go through?

If you try to think to hard about this time travel stuff, it'll fry your brain, something that is dutifully noted by Abe (Jeff Daniels), the crime lord sent from the future to make sure the loopers of the present play by the rules. And letting a future looper live in the past isn't playing by the rules.

The scenes between Levitt and Willis are probably the film's funnest moments, but Jeff Daniels runs a close second, with his deadpan observations that the young people of the present are simply aping styles of the past--emulating movies that in turn were just emulating other movies--instead of doing something new.

And I suppose that's a criticism that could be waged against Looper itself. One can't help but think of other time travel movies when watching it, most specifically the Terminator series--especially when a major character is named Sara, and Garret Dillahunt of "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" shows up as a menacing henchman.

Yes, it is a bit derivative, and if you start to think about the whole "looper" set-up at all, it starts to fall apart. (Why send the people back alive? Who cares if the people that are sent back in time escape? Why would the mob ever risk having a looper assassinate himself? Etc.)

But once the movie gets to its second half, the time travel stuff becomes a mere set-up for some larger issues involving fate, good and evil, and accepting one's past...and future. And Looper's emotional pay-offs are something I never would have predicted.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Blind Crankiness: Trouble With The Curve

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

After seeing Clint Eastwood's infamous RNC performance, I began to ponder what the last Clint Eastwood movie I'd seen that I actually liked was--I'm talking those he merely acted in, as well those he directed--and I had to go back 20 years to Unforgiven. (And really, my love of that movie has more to do with my love for Gene Hackman than anything else.)

Critics tend to fawn over his directorial efforts, but I've found most of them to be plodding bores. I just don't get their appeal. I get his appeal as an actor, at least in his younger days--I mean, come on, Dirty Harry is the king of (granted, fascist and ridiculously violent ) cops--but his typecasting as a tough guy has devolved into typecasting as a cranky old guy. And that's a lot less appealing.

Trouble With the Curve is a mess. Part baseball movie, part father-daughter bonding movie, part romantic comedy, and no part good.

Eastwood plays Gus, an aging baseball scout who is having trouble with his eyesight, but refuses to get it dealt with, lest he give his bosses at the Atlanta Braves a real reason to fire him. Of course, if he can't see, he can't really scout, but he's convinced he can do his job without his eyes.

An old buddy and co-worker, (played by John Goodman and his mustache), isn't so convinced, and so wrangles Gus's daughter Mickey, (Amy Adams), into joining him on the road, as she did in her younger days, and helping him out with the scouting. She reluctantly agrees, even though she doesn't much like her father, and has just landed a partnership at her law firm, a position she's worked her entire career to get. But sure. Put that on hold to help out your cranky father, who doesn't want your help.

See, he largely had to raise her by himself after the death of his wife--her mother--when Mickey was just a kid. He made choices about her upbringing that he thought were best for her, but never explained those choices, thus leaving her resentful and angry. In turn, he felt defensive about his actions, and thus shut himself out from her emotionally

Really, they could avoid the whole painful "bonding trip" with a simple visit to an eye specialist, and maybe two sessions of family counseling.

Tossed into the middle of this boring duo is a character that pops up inexplicably in the beginning for one scene, disappears, and then shows up again about 30 minutes later, wanders around for what seems like forever, before explaining who the hell he is.

He's another scout, an ex-ballplayer named Johnny, (played by Justin Timberlake), who was discovered by Gus years ago, but had to give up the game after an injury. Needless to say, he romances Mickey, who is reluctant at first. And for the record, Adams and Timberlake have zero chemistry together. (I said it a year ago and I'll say it again: JT needs to stop stop making bad movies and start making another record. Now.)

As I mentioned earlier, the movie is a mess. The film opens with an inexplicable nightmare about a horse, and this isn't addressed until almost an hour later, at which point that horse has been forgotten, and the explanation for its existence--which should have some emotional impact--is completely devoid of any.

There are other screamingly obvious plot points brought up, abandoned, and then re-introduced way past the point of caring. As a result, instead of building up to, say, a surprise, or a satisfying pay-off, one is just left wondering, "Jesus Christ, when are they going to get back to that Hispanic amateur ballplayer who's obviously going to save the day for everyone? I haven't got all damn night!"

Director Robert Lorenz, who, after many years of working with Eastwood in various other capacities behind the camera, makes his directorial debut here, fails at the "show, don't tell" rule. There's just way too much exposition, stating of feelings, and explanation of plot. It's like the movie was written for a guy with failing eyesight, not about one. The whole thing is as exciting as an 18-inning game that ends in a walk-off.

Actually, I have no idea if that baseball metaphor makes any sense, and I don't care. All I know is you'll have a much better time watching a Giants game this weekend than you would watching this crap.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Page Three: Nearing the End

I give you, the third--and final!--page of entries for 1982, as seen in my Movie Ledger Book!

As you may have noticed, it's not ACTUALLY September 18th when I am putting up this entry. But I got this thing called a "job," and it's eating into my blogging time immensely. I'm still planning on making it to the end of this here thing, but there's going to be a lot of fudging of dates as I work through the remaining movies.

But it WILL happen, and before the end of the year--mark my words!

Which reminds me, I can't BELIEVE it's been almost a year since I started this thing! How did that happen?

Cannery Row and Body Heat (3)

(Let's pretend it's actually September 18th, OK?)

A third viewing of Body Heat went hand-in-hand with a first-time viewing of Cannery Row, and I am assuming it was on VHS.

Cannery Row is a great little movie that was mired in some scandal back in the day because it was originally supposed to star Raquel Welch. She was fired and replaced with Debra Winger. Producers claimed Welch was in breach of contract because of something involving make-up (?), but there were rumors that she was fired because they felt she was too old for the part. She sued and eventually won.

Frankly, I can't imagine Welch in the role because Debra Winger is almost perfect, and it's a shame the movie was a flop. It's loosely based on the books Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck, and that connection made me love the movie even more since my parents and I would often vacation in Monterey, traipsing the same streets as Doc and his pals.

What makes the movie so good is its sense of humor, complete with narration by John Houston, and a gang of bums headed up by M. Emmet Walsh. I highly recommend a watch. It's available as a rental on Netflix and Amazon, and shows up sometimes on TCM.

Here's one of my favorite scenes.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pink Floyd - The Wall

When I saw Pink Floyd - The Wall in 1982, I had never listened to the entire album. Of course, I had heard "Another Brick In the Wall, Part 2" (the "we don't need no education" song) on the radio many times, as well as some other songs, but I wasn't a die hard fan of the record, and really had no idea what I was getting into.

I saw the movie with my parents at a sneak preview screening at the Alexandria Theater. It was a school night, and I remember bragging to a few people the next day that I had already seen the movie, which is kind of funny because I really didn't like the movie. I think I probably left that part out.

But having seen it, I wanted to hear the original album, so my father borrowed a friend's vinyl copy, and taped it for me. I would end up listening to that tape hundreds of times throughout junior high.

It might seem odd that I became so enamored of the record, but never warmed up to the movie. Here's the thing: The movie is full of pampered rock star angst; aggressively English memories; scenes of World War II fighting; fears of fascism; Oedipal mother issues. As a twelve year-old girl, I couldn't relate to any of that.

But when I was just listening to the music, I could recognize the universality of it. I hated school, too! Sometimes I wanted to be "comfortably numb," too! I felt like there was a wall around me sometimes, too!

The literalness of the movie still bugs the hell out of me, as does its unrelenting bleakness. Even the ending, which I think is supposed to be hopeful, is just...dreary. There's no scene or moment in it that I have ever wanted to see again.

But I guess I can thank the movie for being an official introduction to the album. I'm pretty sure I would have caught up with it eventually had I not seen the movie, because a few of my friends were pretty obsessed with it, and it was on constant rotation wherever we were. But I probably wouldn't have liked the record as much if I had liked the movie more.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Poltergeist (6)

This marks the last time I would see Poltergeist in the year 1982. Of course, it wasn't the last time I'd see it. Oh no. I'd see it many more times over the years.

This viewing was at the Regency III, and I highly doubt it was on a Friday. Most likely it was a Saturday matinee...

I don't really have much else to say about the movie. Its appeal to my younger self will always be a bit of a mystery. And while I had seen plenty of horror movies at this point in my young life, I imagine there was something appealing about one that was so obviously aimed at (and appropriate for) a younger audience.

So, as I embark on a new job that centers around television watching, I think it only fitting that I end this post with the following clips.

TV people indeed!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3D

I'm going to combine posts here, because I find it really funny that not only did I see Friday the 13th Part 3 In 3D by myself, and hated it, but I then went and saw it AGAIN a week later!

It was showing at the Alhambra Theater, which was a single bus ride away, and I guess school was still out, so I went  by myself on a weekday. (And they let me in--twice!--unlike those law-abiding assholes at the Regency 2. Because it's totally fine for a 12-year-old to see a masked killer eviscerate someone in 3D. But sex? And nudity? HEAVEN FORFEND!)

I didn't like the movie because, well, it's dumb. All the Friday the 13th movies are just dumb body counts, and even at 12, I knew a good slasher movie (Halloween) from a bad rip-off (this).

But goddammit, it was also kind of fun! To this day, I loathe 3D, and only enjoy it when it's used in the most cheesy of ways, with objects being thrown at my face. And Friday the 13th 3D is full of that. Knives, pitchforks, eyeballs, machetes. It's all in there, and aimed straight at your head.

Basically, it was like a totally stupid carnival ride that I couldn't wait to ride again...

Friday, August 31, 2012

Nothing New: Lawless

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

Musician and writer Nick Cave has once again teamed up with Australian writer and director John Hillcoat for a film about lawless brothers. Their previous effort, 2005's The Proposition, suffered from an inability to decide whose story it was supposed to tell. The script for Lawless is more focused, but also strangely uncompelling.

Set in 1920's Virginia, the film tells the somewhat true story of the three Bondurant brothers and their bootlegging business. It's based on the "historical novel" The Wettest County In the World, by Matt Bondurant, great-grandson of one of the brothers. That's "novel," not non-fiction, so take those advertising claims of "based on a true story" with a grain of salt.

Shia Leboef is Jack, the youngest Bondurant brother, and the narrator of the tale. He relays legends about the Bondurant clan, and how for generations they've been virtually indestructible; nothing can kill them. This proves a good talent to have when running a backwoods moonshine business. Oldest brother Forrest, (Tom Hardy), heads up the operation, while middle brother Howard, (Jason Clarke), is the muscle. But it's Jack who has ambition, hoping to take their small--albeit successful--business wide.

He finds the opportunity with Chicago gangster Floyd Banner, (Gary Oldman, woefully underused), and is able to widen distribution. But with big-city business comes big-city law, and corrupt officials, headed by special agent Charlie Rakes, (Guy Pearce).

Let's just talk about that Rakes character, and Guy Pearce's portrayal. For some reason, he's a complete dandy who doesn't like to get his clothes dirty, has a part in his hair so severe it looks shaved in, and eyebrows that must have met the same razor. He bears an uncanny resemblance to Bob Geldof in Pink Floyd's The Wall.

This character is also a sadist who enjoys raping prostitutes and kicking the shit out of the Bondurants boys. He's such an insane caricature compared to the rest of the film's cast, that he sticks out like a sore thumb, (albeit a well-dressed one).

There are other characters in the film that are problematic, but for different reasons. Two females hover around the edges, for no other reason than to have both a Madonna, (Bertha, an Amish-ish young woman, played by Mia Wasikowska), and a Whore, (Maggie, a waitress and former showgirl, played by the omnipresent Jessica Chastain), for the brothers to play with. And frankly, I'm a little tired of women being in movies just so their characters can get raped, thus firing up their male love interests to revenge.

I'll give the movie this: The time and setting are convincing; the costumes are impeccable; and the soundtrack--also by Nick Cave--is a catchy mix of modern bluesy songs recorded to sound like classic bluegrass.

And for a while, Lawless seems to be heading towards something new--a true-ish tale with bits of legend and magical realism thrown in--but it just ends up being a lesser version of a gangster story that's been told time and time again.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cat People (4) and Pretty Baby

Once again, playing catch-up with my blogging duties...

So, on August 26th--or thereabouts, because that was a Thursday, and I have doubts about me watching two movies on a school night, although I really don't know if school started before or after Labor Day back then, so maybe it is the right date--I watched two movies that feature naked girls in New Orleans.

This had to have been on VHS. And rentals. The first was, of course, Cat People, which I never actually bought on VHS, but I think I did illegally copy a VHS tape of it, so I could watch it another 25 times (or thereabouts) in the coming years.

The other film was Pretty Baby, which I had also seen a few times before.

I love Pretty Baby, but I understand it's...problematic. It's definitely not something that could be made today--at least not without very loud protest and boycott--and perhaps that's a good thing.

But it is a good movie, and that's kind of what makes it so problematic. If it were just an exploitation piece about child prostitution, that would be one thing. But it's a serious movie, directed by Louis Malle, and starring some pretty impressive actors, (Susan Sarandon and Keith Carradine, among others), and somehow that makes it even more problematic.

Of course it also stars a very young Brooke Shields, and she does play a child prostitute whose virginity is auctioned off, and who falls in love with a much older and slightly creepy man. Which...umm...

The movie itself is not really lascivious as far as scenes with Shields are concerned, although she does appear naked, though not full-frontally so, and she was underage at the time of filming...

But I think the real controversy is not so much with the movie, but with an unfortunate tie-in associated with Playboy magazine. They released a photo book entitled Sugar and Spice that included naked photos of the young Brooke Shields in scenes inspired by the movie. I'm not going to link to it, but a simple Google search will bring them up if you must see them. (The photos really do make me feel VERY uncomfortable.)

So. Yeah. I do love the movie, because I love New Orleans, and the era it's set in, and the music, and most of the acting, (Frances Faye as the aging madam is, frankly, awful, but she's so bad it's almost comedic).

But I'm also kind of glad nothing like it could get made today.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Better Than Its Set-Up: Robot and Frank

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

It's hard not to laugh at the idea of a movie about a robot who takes care of an aging Frank Langella. I had fears of something similar to the creepy and maudlin Robin Williams film Bicentennial Man, or a story about a curmudgeon who Learns How to Love Again Via His Robot Friend. But Robot and Frank is better than its set-up would lead one to believe.

Langella plays Frank, an aging, divorced father living alone in the "near future," in a house that has seen cleaner days. He's forgetful, but denies it when his adult kids, Madison (Liv Tyler) and Hunter (James Marsden) confront him about it. Hunter decides to get Frank a helper robot to clean, cook, and keep Frank in line. But Frank does not appreciate being cared for by an appliance.

Frank has his routines, and they involve walking to the library, flirting with the librarian, Jennifer (Susan Sarandon), and stealing soap from a local beauty store he can't always remember is no longer his favorite diner. You see, Frank used to be a "second-story man," a cat burglar who could find and avoid even the most "fool proof" of alarm systems, and stealing is the one thing Frank isn't forgetting about.

Some neighbors and the local sheriff (Jeremy Sisto) aren't forgetting it, either, especially since Frank spent some time in prison for robbery. When jewelry goes missing from a snobby neighbor's house, Frank is suspect number one.

And rightfully so. Frank's robot is a willing and able partner in crime for Frank, and when they start to plan robberies, the robot sees it as an excellent therapeutic opportunity for Frank, as it involves both mental tasks, and physical ones!

Robot (he never does get a name) and Frank's crime spree is the movie's highlight. At first I thought Frank Langella might be too erudite an actor for such an aging wise guy role, but he proves to be very good at playing a tough guy working hard at hiding his vulnerabilities.

The robot looks like a slightly less constipated version of Asimo. He's clearly played by a person in a robot suit (in this case a woman, Rachael Ma), and is voiced by Peter Sarsgaard. His robot voice will get comparisons to HAL in 2001, but to me, he sounded uncannily like Michael Emerson, so much so I just assumed throughout the whole movie that it actually was Emerson.

Robot and Frank is a small movie. It's science fiction, but not flashy; aside from the robot, clear cell phones, and video projected phone calls, it could be now. The setting is contained in an almost claustrophobic way; Frank's world has gotten smaller as his mind begins to fail him.

Memories, and the idea that we are our memories, is an obvious theme here. Frank is losing his, and his robot can have his "memory" erased with the touch of a button...

And this is an interesting, almost philosophical subject. But the movie falls short, and basically ends before it gets a chance to really explore it. It's like screenwriter Christopher D. Ford confused subtlety with just plain not writing enough.

There's are moments that are genuinely funny, and Langella is able to say lines like "he's my friend" without making you want to roll your eyes; it's certainly a very unique partners-in-crime movie. But ultimately, its smallness works against it, resulting in a movie that never gets a chance to take off, or be truly memorable.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Leopard Man and I Walked With a Zombie

First, let me just say I love how the title of this post is also a sentence.

My love of the 1982 Cat People resulted in a curiosity about the films of Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur, the men behind the original version of the movie. By this point in 1982, I had already seen the original, 1942 version of Cat People, and liked it. So when two more Lewton films came to the York Theater, I was all over it.

Of the two, I Walked With a Zombie is definitely the better and more entertaining movie. It's loosely-based-on-Jane-Eyre-storyline gives it a nice gothic romantic punch, plus, zombies!

The second movie, despite having the title The Leopard Man, it's not a quasi Cat People sequel, and has nothing to do with any kind of were-people at all. Ultimately, there's nothing supernatural about its story.

The most memorable scene from the movie is near the beginning, when a young woman who is afraid of the dark heads home after a trip to the grocer's. It left an instant impression, and I've never forgotten it...

I found the rest of the movie to be a tad boring, at least in comparison to I Walked With a Zombie (because, duh, zombies), but was definitely glad I saw it. I can thank the 1982 Cat People for introducing me to the Lewton and Tourneur oeuvres, and as I got older, I would appreciate their moody and suggestive approach to horror all the more.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rock and Roll High School, Neighbors, Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip (2)

Renting movies at Captain Video, and spending the weekend watching them was pretty regular thing in my family. A lot of the time, we'd rent movies we'd seen before, and often more than once. Buying movies on VHS wasn't really feasible since they were priced insanely high back then. I think 80 bucks was often the average price, but maybe I'm exaggerating it in my memory. All I know is we rarely actually bought any movies. We'd just rent them over and over.

On this weekend we re-watched three movies. The first was an all-time fave: Rock N Roll High School.

I'm not sure when I first saw Rock N Roll High School, but I do know at some point I went to see it at the Roxie Theater. Whatever the case, this viewing was probably my fifth or so.

This movie introduced me to the Ramones, and a lifelong love was born. Here's how much I loved them: When I was 16, I had brain surgery, (not a lobotomy, I swear), and a week later I was front row at a Ramones concert at Wolgang's. I might not have loved them quite as much as Riff Randall did, but not much could keep me away from one of their concerts.

And one more personal anecdote about the movie: I took a film studies class taught by one of the movie's screenwriters, and it was one of the worst classes I've ever taken, mainly because that professor was the kind of teacher the kids at Vince Lombardi High would have bound, gagged, and pelted with apple brown betty.

The second movie was Neighbors, a bit of a flop that starred John Belushi and Dan Akroyd.

I know I didn't like it much the first time we saw it, which was in 1981 when it was released, but perhaps my parents liked it, and that's why we chose to watch it again. I'm actually a bit curious to re-watch it now, as I imagine its black humor might have been a tad lost of me at the time. It's not available on DVD from Netflix, but it can be viewed online, so I might give the movie another shot at some point...

Finally, we rewatched Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip, and you can read about my first viewing of that here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire took home the Oscar for 1981's Best Picture, beating out Raiders of the Lost Ark, Reds, Atlantic City, and On Golden Pond.

In other words, screw Chariots of Fire.

OK, fine. I understand it's probably an inspirational movie to many. I'm sure it's a fine piece of cinema. But it bored the hell out of me when I was twelve, and I suspect it still would since I'm not a runner, don't really care about the Olympics, and am not an Anglophile.

I have a memory of watching the movie at home, and falling asleep, but apparently that's wrong, because I actually saw it at the York Theater on a Friday. If school had already started at that point, then this was an evening showing. There's no way I didn't fall asleep in that theater.

Of course, there's one thing no one who sees the movie will ever forget, and that's the theme song by Vangelis. For better or worse, it's one of the most memorable--and overly-played--theme songs in the history of movies.

But I'm still not gonna watch the movie again just to hear it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

I think Fast Times At Ridgemont High was the first movie in 1982 that I saw with just my mother. I'm not sure why my dad wasn't there, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't, and it was just me and mom at the Royal Theater that Saturday in August, the day after the movie opened.

That was appropriate because I was with my mother when, about a year earlier, I bought the book the movie is based on. It was at a bookstore on Chestnut Street. Do NOT ask me why I remember that. I just do.

I LOVED the book. I read it many times before seeing the movie, and many times after seeing it, going so far as to underline bits of dialogue that are in both the book and the movie. For reals. Look.

Yes, I've still got my copy, and it's falling apart. But I'm keeping a firm grip on it because it's out of print, and copies go for beaucoup dinero.

In doing some perfunctory research in preparation for this post, I came across this assessment of the book, and have to say, I disagree with it almost completely. She seems to be criticizing it for not being more "journalistic," but then also seems to not like it when Crowe seems to be editorializing at times.

It's pretty obvious the book is not exactly in-depth journalism. It's a series of stories about one very fictionalized high school. (For the record, the real "Ridgemont" is Clairemont High School in San Diego.) And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. It's a young adult book, not a shocking expose on teenagers in the early 1980s.

She also gives short shrift to one of my favorite parts of the book: When the class goes to Grad Nite at Disneyland. Reading that part of the book is what ultimately convinced me to fork over the dough when my own Grad Nite came around. It wasn't as memorable an experience as they have in the book, (there was no hunt for hidden booze on Tom Sawyer Island, for example), and, in fact, I have almost no memory of the night at all. But I do know that a pre-super-famous-Michael Bolton was one of the musical guests. Check it.

OK, I realize I'm talking more about the book (and me) than the movie here, but that's mainly because I think, in the end, the book had way more influence on me than the movie did.

Which isn't to say I didn't love the movie. Of course I did! But since I was such a big fan of the book I couldn't help but be a little dissapointed by what wasn't included in the movie.

Also, some of the casting left a little to be desire. I think at the time, I kind of thought the actor who played Damone, Robert Romanus, was cute. But looking back, he's just all wrong. For one thing, he looks way too old. (Of course, they all kind of were; Phoebe Cates was the only lead who was still a teenager, but just barely, at nineteen.) And for another, he's got an East Coast accent that doesn't really make sense for a movie set in Southern California. In the book, he's from Philadelphia, but there's no mention of him not being a California boy in the movie. (Also, a bit of trivia: Romanus played a high schooler two years earlier in the movie Foxes, which featured Cherie Currie of The Runaways in her first movie role. Many years later, he would play Joan Jett's guitar teacher in the movie The Runaways.)

The actor (Brian Backer) who plays Mark Ratner is also kind of boring, and also seemed way too East Coast. This all may have a lot to do with director Amy Heckerling being from New York, though,

And speaking of Heckerling, bless her, because one of the other things about the movie that bugs is the soundtrack. If you listen to the commentary on the DVD release, she talks about how she was basically forced by producer Irving Azoff to include a bunch of music she hated, like Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Jackson Brown. She wanted more punk, new wave, and rock and roll, but only succeeded in getting The Go-Go's, Oingo Boingo, and Led Zeppelin in the movie. (The commentary is worth a listen, as it features both Heckerling and Cameron Crowe, and includes some interesting stories about casting, edits, and why "Kashmir" is played on that first date instead of a song from side one of Led Zeppelin IV.)

All that said, I still love it. I rewatched it a few days ago, and had forgotten how short it is. It barely clocks in at 90 minutes. Since some stuff has to be cut out, (nudity, etc.), when it airs on network television, making it even shorter, it's usually aired with some deleted scenes included. You can find all of them if you search "Fast Times at Ridgemont High deleted scenes" on YouTube, but I'm going to include my faves below.

Spicoli talks about partying with Mick Jagger:

Brad gives the guidance counselor a piece of his mind:

And what is probably the most controversial cut: Stacy in the abortion clinic. I wonder if this is something they'd still include in TV airings?

Finally, do you remember the really awful TV spin-off that lasted just a few episodes? You can watch that trainwreck here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Road Warrior

I saw The Road Warrior for the second time at the York Theater, apparently on a Thursday. I guess school hadn't started yet, because it seems like I was going to a lot of movies this week.

You can read my first post about Warrior here. And you can enjoy the movie's first big car sequence below.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

E.T. ²

As I said in my first post about E.T., I'm not entirely sure if I saw the movie at the Grand Lake on my first or second viewing, though I'm pretty sure it was the first. Which would mean this second viewing took place at the Regency I.

I haven't gotten around to re-watching it yet because I don't actually own a copy of it, it isn't available to watch instantly, and I'm afraid the version I'll get from Netflix will be the version that Spielberg fussed with, removing guns etc. But I'll get around to it, if only to see Drew Barrymore, who is one of my favorite things about the movie. "I taught him how to talk now, he can talk now.":

Here are a few more items from my Genre Book:

Rex Reed's write-up, as it ran in the Chronicle:

And a couple of newspaper ads:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mastering The Measured Tones: Hope Springs

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

Hope Springs is being sold as a comedy along the lines of Something's Got to Give or It's Complicated: a romantic comedy for the olds.

But I can tell you almost every funny moment in the movie can be seen in the two-and-half-minute trailer. The rest of the film is a surprisingly serious and quiet look at a troubled marriage, and the therapy sessions that will either save it, or help end it.

The screenplay, by Vanessa Taylor, was listed on the "Black List"--a list of supposedly brilliant but unproduced screenplays--back in 2008, and the inclusion makes sense. The film, for the most part, avoids the obvious, and concentrates instead on the surprises introspection can bring.

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are Kay and Arnold Soames, a midwestern couple who have been married for 31 years. Their adult kids have moved out, their day-to-day life follows a predictable routine--breakfast, work, dinner, retirement to separate bedrooms, sleep--and Kay is visibly frustrated by their life together.

Arnold, on other hand, is content to continue living a life that doesn't include any unnecessary drama, while also providing him a lot of time to watch shows about golf on TV.

Seeking advice in the self-help section of their local Barnes & Noble, Kay comes across a book by a Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carell), and soon uses some of her own money to pay for a week of intensive couples counseling with the doctor, in Maine. And after much grouching from Arnold, ("That could have been a new roof!"), he agrees to come along.

It's in the counseling session scenes that the movie really avoids comedic cliches. I kept expecting the wacky reveal that Dr. Feld is an obvious quack, or that he goes home to a haranguing wife, or a lonely bachelor pad. But those scenes never come. Instead, Carrell plays Dr. Feld completely straight, mastering the measured tones of a counselor who's seen marriages like this before, and knows how to deal with them.

Of course, it goes without saying that Meryl Streep is terrific, and in this role she's able to demonstrate, once again, that she's as good at comedy as she is at drama. She can garner a laugh by just looking at herself bewilderingly in a mirror, and tears when reacting to the possibility that her husband might not be attracted to her any more.

Tommy Lee Jones's Arnold is a bit less developed, and for most of the movie he's pure grump. But eventually when Arnold starts to realize what's really at stake, Jones is able to break out of the grump mold a bit, and show some convincing vulnerability.

And I have to commend director David Frankel for not shying away from the more...intimate aspects of the story. This is a movie about intimacy, so sex plays a big part in that. Arnold and Kay are an aging couple who haven't had sex in years, so obviously, many of their post-therapy session "exercises" involve their sexuality.

Sure, some of their sexual moments are played for laughs. But the majority of the time, the sex is serious, because it's serious to the characters involved.

So, yeah, if the idea of watching people in their 60's in bed together fills you with squeamish dread, you might want to stay away.

But I have to say that, ultimately, Hope Springs really surprised me. I'd never have thought I'd actually get enjoyment from--let alone respect--a movie that features Meryl Streep giving Tommy Lee Jones a blow-job.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid ²

I don't have much to say about Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid that I didn't say in my first entry about the movie. This second viewing took place at the York Theater, and I'd end up watching the movie many more times on cable. In fact, I'm pretty sure the TV version had a few scenes that weren't in the original theatrical release, although those don't seem to be viewable online anywhere.

Here's what the newspaper ads looked like, with the tag line "The people who brought you The Jerk try to make it up to you!"

And here's a compilation of funny moments from the movie.

Monday, August 6, 2012

An Officer and a Gentleman

An Officer and a Gentleman is definitely an R-rated movie. There's not a lot of nudity, but there's sex, and some emotionally realistic sex at that.

I've already talked about my youthful love for Richard Gere, so there was no way I wasn't going to be seeing this one. And we only waited about a week after it opened to go see it on a weekend at the Regency II.

And by "we," I mean me and my parents. But that's not the interesting story. The interesting story is when some neighborhood friends and I attempted to go see it again about a week later.

It was still playing at the Regency II, and as I've said before, the Regency II was always nicer than the Regency I, both in terms of the theater itself, and the staff. And I suppose I shouldn't fault a theater for sticking to the law, and making sure no minors were allowed in the theater without a guardian. But I had been going to R-rated movies alone for so long, I just wasn't used to getting carded. In fact, I was insulted!

And, indeed, the ticket seller wouldn't sell me and my friends tickets, and we weren't exactly gracious in the face of that. But we also weren't going to give up on our chance to see some age-inappropriate cinema that day!

So, we waited outside the theater until we saw a woman who was going in alone, and we asked her if she would pretend to be our aunt, and go in with us and get tickets. It was the cinematic equivalent of asking someone to buy us beer.

OK. I guess we weren't very bright, or we were just blinded by Richard Gere lust, because why we thought the ticket agent would just suddenly forget the belligerent girls who tried to get in five minutes ago, and buy the whole "aunt" thing, I don't know. And, indeed they didn't buy it, and made us leave. Again. But not before I indignantly yelled, "Oh yeah?! Well, I'VE ALREADY SEEN IT!"

Yeah. I showed them!

As for the movie itself, well, aside from its sexual frankness, it really is, at heart, an old-fashioned love story. It's so old-fashioned that my grandfather went to see it, and loved it. In fact, a lot of people went to see it, and it was the third highest grossing picture of 1982, which, when you consider all the other now-classic movies that came out that year, is pretty remarkable.

Below is a clip of the film's ending but, if you haven't seen the movie, you probably shouldn't watch the clip. (Although even if you haven't seen the movie, you probably already know how it ends, after years of movie and TV references and parodies.)

I'm including it because for years I was convinced that when Debra Winger kisses Richard Gere, she takes the ear plugs out of her ears, and sticks them in his mouth.

Now, I am assuming she drops them before she sticks her fingers in his mouth, but it's the whole sticking-her-fingers-in-his-mouth thing that makes it suspect to begin with. What's that about?

Or have I been kissing wrong all this time?!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Raiders of the Lost Ark ² and The Thing ²

I originally saw Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, at the Century Cinema in Corte Madera. (I'm not sure if it was called something else back then or not, but it was and still remains a large single-screen theater. I haven't been back in years, but at the time they had an annoying tendency to use projector bulbs that were too dim, and the theater didn't have any middle aisles, which was always a little disconcerting.)

I waited a long time to see Raiders, because for some reason I was of the belief that it was about archeology and was therefore just some dumb movie about old stuff. What a difference a year can make, right? In 1981, I was definitely a movie fan, but I wasn't someone who knew a lot about movies. Eventually, I'd be buying Fangoria, and Cinefantastique, and reading my dad's Film Comments. But I guess in 1981, I was still judging movies by their posters and subject matter, and Raiders just didn't seem that interesting to me.

I think it was a friend's fanaticism for the movie that finally convinced me it was something to see. And see it again I did on August 5th, 1982,  at the Alhambra Theater on a double-bill with The Thing. Two movies, two second viewings.

I wish I could remember if I went with my friends, or alone, (probably the latter), but I'm pretty much drawing a blank on the whole experience!

I've written about the Indiana Jones movies on my other blog, so please go and check that out. And I'll leave you with an interesting video that shows the opening of Raiders side-by-side with scenes from 30 earlier adventure films.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Relentlessly Adequate: Total Recall

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

I'm of the opinion that the original Total Recall is an awful movie, and by "awful" I mean "amazing." It's so amazing in its awfulness, that it goes full circle and becomes great. It's not something you forget, and I know that because I've only ever seen in once, (sneak preview; night before it opened; at the Galaxy Theater on Van Ness), but I can still quote dialogue and conjure up images of Arnold Schwarzenegger's eyes bulging out of his head like I'd seen it yesterday.

Or is that merely the effect of so many pop cultural references throughout the years, acting as a virtual "Rekall" of memories that are actually quite dim?

I'll never know for sure.

The remake, (and it is a remake, sticking a little closer to the 1990 film than the Phillip K. Dick story that inspired it), is pretty unnecessary because it's relentlessly adequate. The effects are good. The acting is fine. There are some pretty thrilling action sequences.

But there's no Mars. There's no Kuato! There's never a touching plea to "give this people air!" And there's definitely no exploding eyeballs.

But there is a woman with three boobs; better than nothing?

This Total Recall is completely Earthbound, set near the end of the 21st century. The planet has become virtually uninhabitable, with only two areas giving home to the population. The powerful sector is what used to be England and parts of Europe. The poor sector, dubbed the Colony, is on the other side of the planet, in what was once Australia. The two areas are connected by a giant chunnel called the Fall that serves as the daily commute train for the workers who live in the Colony, but work in the United Federation of Britain.

Colin Farrell is Doug Quaid, one of those workers. During the day he commutes from the Colony and welds parts onto an ever-growing army of robotic peacekeepers. At night he comes home to his hot wife, Lori, (Kate Beckinsale), and has nightmares about being shot at while fighting robots with a mystery woman named Melina (Jessica Biel).

Because life on Earth is so miserable, a technology company called "Rekall" will, for a price, implant false memories into one's brain, so that even if you'll never be able to visit the lush islands of Hawaii while bedding babes and fighting ninjas, you can at least think you once did.

Despite warnings about the dangers of Rekall from his his wife and his best friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), Quaid finds this an impossible lure to resist, and decides to get himself some fake memories involving exciting espionage and super agents. But before Harold can complete the memory transfer, it's revealed that Quaid might really be a super agent, and all hell breaks lose.

But is Quaid really a super agent? Or did the memory implantation actually happen? An intriguing thought, yes, but one the movie never really follows up on. And that's a shame.

Quaid soon learns his loving wife is actually a skilled assassin, the woman from his dreams is real, and Kohaagen, (Bryan Cranston and his wig), the leader of the UFB, wants him captured alive.

What follows is a lot of scenes of Farrell duking it out with Beckingsale, (she's done this thing a lot before in the Underworld movies, which are also directed by Recall's director Len Wiseman, who is also her husband; don't get me started on the fetishistic implications surrounding THAT relationship), running away from robocops with Jessica Biel, and speedy chases in hover cars.

And all of that stuff looks great. The hover car chase is particularly fun, and sticks to some plausible science (magnets!) that provides a good pay-off. Wiseman has a good handle on action sequences, even if he is more in love with lens flare than J.J. Abrams. (Seriously. If you played a drinking game centered around each time a lens flare appears on screen, you'd die of liquor poisoning within the film's first 30 minutes.)

The cities, especially the Colony, borrow a lot from the look of Blade Runner, with constant rain, a general Asian influence, and skyscrapers that push the term to its limit. And being that the movies are both based on Phillip K. Dick works, this adds a nice sense of symmetry to the universes.

I also like that there's not one, but two very competent, kick ass women in the story, even if they aren't developed much past their ability to look pissed off and kick guys in the chest

And yet, none of this is enough of a reason to see it. There's hardly any humor in it, but it also doesn't take itself seriously enough to be a thoughtful story about the nature of reality, memories, and identity. It's like the creators saw the first movie, and then had every memorable moment from that movie erased from their minds, and replaced them with scenes from other capable but ultimately forgettable science fiction movies

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Union City

While I was a good girl and got a bunch of posts ready for automated publication while I was on vacation, I didn't really take into account post-vacation catch-up on other things, and as such, some posts here are showing up a little late. (I think we'll all survive.)

Apparently, on August 1st, I saw Union City, a 1980 movie based on a Cornell Woolrich story, starring Debbie Harry. I am assuming this was a video rental, and not a theater viewing, as I can't find it listed as playing anywhere at that time.

And I am assuming it was chosen because my dad liked film noir-esque movies, and I liked Debbie Harry. I can definitely tell you I don't remember anything about it. It isn't currently available on DVD, and aside from the following screen test, I can't find any videos related to it.

I'm venturing to guess Debbie Harry wasn't that great in it, as it was an early role. But now I'm dying to see it again since it sounds like something I would appreciate a lot more now than I did then...

And since there's not much more I can say about it, here's a video by Blondie for a song called "Union City Blue," which doesn't actually have anything to do with the movie.